Hello! Joining me for this month's edition of A Blogging Good Read are Jessica from Jessica In Your Ear and Lizzie from Lizzie Dripping.
Jessica's choice was S. by J.J. Abrams & Doug Dorst:
If anyone ever asks me to recommend them a book, I always tell them to try S by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst. I wrote my dissertation for my undergraduate degree on the book and if I ever talk to anyone about it, I become very geeky and enthusiastic about it! It’s basically a book within a book, as Doug Dorst and JJ Abrams teamed up to create a normal novel as well as a love story written by two characters within the margins. I love the concept and the little touches are incredible – the book ‘Ship of Theseus’ has a library stamp and the pages are interspersed with postcards, newspaper articles and even a hand drawn map on a napkin. It’s definitely a book to ‘explore’ rather than just read and if you want to immerse yourself in the whole world, there is a huge cult online fan following. It’s definitely a unique book and I personally think it is brilliant. A word of warning, I might be rather heartbroken if my fellow book bloggers didn’t enjoy it!
This is like nothing I've ever read before. I'd never even heard of it before Jessica chose it as her pick for BGR and I was fascinated by the description when I investigated further. Even that didn't prepare for me for the actual book. It's the most mindbogglingly intricate publication I've ever seen and I can't imagine how much work must have gone into creating it. There's the book itself (The Ship of Theseus), a story told via margin notes over different timelines and all the varying inserts. Everything is utterly beautifully crafted and I honestly don't know how they managed to do it.
It's an unusual one to read. I ended up going for the swirly approach and read story and notes at the same time, going round and round and round in a joyous whirl of text and margin comments. There are multiple options though! Given the sheer volume of story on offer, I think there's something to be said for reading The Ship of Theseus first and reading Eric & Jen's story afterwards. Even the fact that their story unfolds over four different timelines (handily marked in different coloured pens) means that there's a huge amount of re-readability to S and I'm looking forward to going back and reading about them in chronological rather than page order. I'm a big fan of epistolary narratives so I found the occasionally snarky and rather charming unfolding of their relationship more engrossing than the story told in The Ship of Theseus but all elements of this book are worth diving into.
On a side note, I notice that this is available as an audiobook and I have no idea how that would work. If you're going to read it (and I strongly recommend you do so!), please invest in the paper version. It's a mini work of art.
Did Lizzie like it?
This was a book I really struggled with. The multiple narratives were interesting but I found the pages quite distracting and overwhelming in terms of the text on them. I was reading this on a Kindle, and I imagine that the text version is probably better spaced and has better contrast. I ended up reading the "main story" first and the "annotations" second. Both the narratives were good - I was more involved in the annotations- but it wasn't quite the immersive, whole book experience, that was promised in the foreword. I think I'd definitely recommend a paper copy for this book.
Lizzie picked The Awakeningby Kate Chopin:
This is a book I read for the first time a year ago and I absolutely loved. The novel focuses on a woman (Edna) who is married and has two children and yet feels that her life is lacking something. As the book continues, she explores whether she is missing love, freedom or simply just time to discover herself.
I love this book for a number of reasons. Firstly, I love the character. "The Awakening" was first written in 1899 and it presents a woman who was very forward thinking - the book was actually banned in a few circles because it was so forward thinking. Despite being nearly 120 years old, I still felt that this book spoke to me on a very base level. Secondly, Edna is struggling with something that we all struggle with - she just feels like she isn't in the right place. This is something I think we've all experienced, whether in work, academia or relationships, and Edna is very real and relatable as she explores her life. Finally, I think I quite like the fact that the book is quite dark in places and things are not always what they seem (but I'll say no more so as not to spoil it).
This is definitely a book I would recommend: it's written in a very unique way and was way ahead of it's time too.
What did Jessica think of it?
The Awakening was the final book I read. I had never come across it or the author before but it definitely reminded me of the kind of book I read during my English Lit degree. As a result, it took me a little time to really settle into it and stop feeling like I needed to be analysing and writing notes! It was shocking for the time it was published because it details a married woman who actually has feelings, and those feelings are for another man who isn't her husband. It was interested to read in this feminist context and if you enjoy your classics, this is a less well-known novel to add to your to-read list.
I know what Jessica means on this one! There is a certain whiff of English Literature set text about this but that's not a bad thing as far as I'm concerned. The good set texts I had for A level English, that is...if I ever start comparing anything to Nights at the Circus or Things Fall Apart then you'll be only too clear about exactly how much I hated those two... Ahem. Back to The Awakening. It also reminded me quite strongly of certain Persephone titles - that leisurely pace, the level of detailed description about even the most of minor of things and the appreciation that a woman actually can write a serious work of literature about the everyday lives of women.
Unsuprisingly, I liked it a lot. Very much my cup of tea!
I went for The Miniaturistby Jessie Burton:
This is a rare case of me overcoming my natural antipathy towards award-winning books and giving it a go. While I don't entirely agree with the massive amounts of hoopla that came along with this book (seriously, it seemed like everyone was reading it at one point), I did enjoy reading it and that makes it a definite BGR candidate. The sense of place is extremely strong - open the covers of the book and bang, you're in seventeenth century Amsterdam and caught up in the mysteries surrounding Nella.
She's recently married to a trader, much older than her, and is presented with a dolls house as a wedding present. It's a miniature version of their own house, furnished in exquisite detail. Then additional items keep appearing in the post. Who's sending them? How do they know so much about the inner workings of the household? Whilst I could wish that this book went a little deeper into certain elements and fleshed out some of the characters a bit more, the setting and mystery are more than enough to sell it to me.
What did Lizzie think?
This was a book that I'd been longing to read and the opening hooked me straight away into the characters. If I'm honest though, the middle third of the book kind of lost me; it became, in my opinion, a little repetitive and confusing (a lot of characters and not a lot of information). The last third though, was wonderfully written - fast paced, intriguing and a real page turner. I guess I'm meant to feel a lot like Nella, the main character, but it was still a frustrating middle none-the-less.
How about Jessica?
The Miniaturist has been on my ‘to-read’ list since it won Waterstones Book of the Year in 2014. It’s been so hyped up that my expectations were sky-high and although it was an enjoyable read, it really didn’t enthuse me in the way I expected it to. Like the doll-house which drives the plot, I felt that the characters were all a little two-dimensional; I found it hard to truly connect with anyone in the story emotionally. I think the book had simply been too hyped up for me, as it didn’t blow me away like other ‘big reads’ of 2015. That said, I did finish it in just one train journey so it can’t have been that bad! I thought it was an intriguing concept and a plot which I haven’t encountered before but it just failed to completely grab me.
Thank you so much for taking part, Jessica and Lizzie. I loved both of your picks!
I'll be back next month and we'll be reading Coralineby Neil Gaiman, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hydeby Robert Louis Stevenson and Modern Serpents Talk Things Throughby Jamie Brindle.